Activity #2: Module 1 – Writing to Learn - SWIFTPENS Training Materials
Explore the the Writing to Learn Module. Reflect on how you use Writing to Learn (journals and blogs in your classroom). 

4/8/2011 00:09:17

The use of journals in my classroom is essential to my teaching. Students are given time daily to complete a reflective writing of what they have learned previously. In this reflective writing the students are not marked down for spelling error or grammatical errors. The focus is entirely on writing down what they have learned, what they still have questions about or if there is something they want to know more about. Often students are eager to share what they have written about which then leads to an ongoing class discussion of the content that is being taught. Journals are a useful tool that enables every child to write/draw what they have learned regardless of their disability.

Sara Moroni
4/25/2011 19:56:26

My classes use Writing to Learn in a variety of ways. I think it is very important to incorporate the use of writing in all subject areas. In order for writing to become a natural process for students, I find it very helpful to set a routine for the class. Once the writing routine has been established, students begin to write almost automatically. Sometimes I will just ask students to reflect on their learning or sometimes I will give students a prompt that requires higher order thinking skills. In math, students will sometimes write about the process they used to solve a problem. Another journal techniuqe I find useful in math is when I solve a problem incorrectly on the board and students have to complete an error analysis report to explain where the mistake was made and why. A lot of times, I use my student's journal responses as quick assessment as to what direction I will take my instruction. Overall, I find that the incorporation of journal writing within my classroom enables my students to truly process the curriculum in a meaningful way, without the fear of ridicule.

marah brandimarte
5/1/2011 04:26:32

I use journal entries in all of the subjects I teach. The student's journal entries consist of a variety of questions. Some journals are prompts for the topic for the day (observations and questioning). Some entries allow the students to state their opinion on a controversial topic (self-awareness). Some of the journalentries require students to create lists and recall info. previously taught. I grade the students journals based on minimal criteria. For example: I require the students to write a minimum of 2-3 complete sentences, and always write out the actual journal question. By not having too many requirements it allows the students to free-write at their own level and pace.
In Physical Education class, the students are required to journal every Friday about what they accomplished and learned during that week. This allows the students to see the progress they are making physically, and to be proud of what they have accomplished physically. This process takes about 10 minutes and is vital for reflecting on the benefits of Physical Education.

5/1/2011 23:26:38

I do use writing in my classrooms. What I have actually been looking for is an effective way to use writing in my classrooms. Currently I use Board prompts to elicit a review process in the students. While I like to think it has an effect, I don’t think it is as effective as I would like to be. One of the goals I have as a teacher is to instill in the students the ability to reason and think for themselves. To often when we hand students worksheets they seek only to answer the question in front of them and not understand the underlying theories. I hope that by integrating the Reading Journal/Diary technique I can do just that. In fact I wish I had heard of this earlier as I believe it would have helped me through my own college classes.

J Hackett
5/5/2011 10:04:52

Writing is a tool that should be stressed in all areas and classes and linked to the World of Work. Students need to learn to communicate in print to a variety of audiences and for a various reasons.
I use writing in many different ways in my classroom for all ability areas and grades. Initially, each week my sixth graders and Cognitively Impaired Students wrote about their week-end and presented it to the class orally. Next, we incorporated the report into a weekly letter to our Trucker Buddy working on legibility, parts of a letter and creativity.
After reading a passage, chapter or section my students will summarize the reading. This is a way to ensure that the student comprehends the section and clarify areas of confusion in my Language Arts and Social Studies classes.
To encourage my 8th graders to become active participants in writing they are asked to respond to a quote of the day. I encourage them to tell what the quote means to them and relate it to their life or identify a section that is confusing and why. After reading the students are asked to write in their journal from a selection of prompts. We discuss the writings and often this leads to clarification, questions and review of the lesson. The students are becoming more confident in expressing themselves in an appropriate manner even on controversial topics . Students have been encouraged to express their thoughts in poetry prompts and free writes to release their creative thought processes and allow them to experience the fun of writing

5/7/2011 23:56:32

In Social Studies it is easy to incorporate writing into the daily lessons. As a warm-up I will have students write about their prior knowledge concerning a topic. This could be a new area of the world that we are learning about or a controversial currnet event.

An exit essay is good way to find out what the students have learned about the daily lesson. It can also generate questions or concerns about a topic.

In SQ I use reading logs to have the students recall what we have read. Students can also give their opinion about a book we have read. This is good feedback for me about the books that we have read.

5/16/2011 01:51:05

For Social Studies, I can incorporate Writing to Learn each day depending on what we are doing. An exit card for facts learned about a concept can be collected at the end of class. Or to include questions that they still might have can be used the next day as a warm-up activity. We also use writing with a current event that has a debateable question. I can give a shorter time for them to write their "side" down and then we can could do a "share and tear" from that original journal.

I use journal writing in SQ class. I give the students many prompts to use to write about their book (or characters). We can learn together from their writing about many books.

For any kind of writing they do, I want them to write their thoughts down on paper without worrying about grammer or spelling at this point. I agree that they content is more important at this point than the mechanics.

Ron Howery
5/27/2011 01:48:25

Module 2

use the templates for sequence of events to develop instructions for solving/simplification of equations.

The American Rhetoric website was interesting and actually worked on my classroom computer :). I liked the alliteration segments.

5/27/2011 01:57:09

Module 2

use the templates for sequence of events to develop instructions for solving/simplification of equations.

The American Rhetoric website was interesting and actually worked on my classroom computer :). I liked the alliteration segments.

5/28/2011 04:15:19

I have not used writing to learn as much as I would have liked in the past year specifically because I wasn't sure how I could assess them all in a timely manner -the rubrics in this module are incredibly helpful and I can see that I will be able to use this much more next year.
In U.S. History there has been a lot of speculative and digressive quick writes due to the nature of the material. My focus has been on seeing history not as random events that happened and are over , but a chain of events with far reaching impact that we can see in our own society today. Students frequently speculate about how what happened in the past affects where we are now . They also predict what might come next in history based on what they already learned. Using quick writes to get out questions that aren't addressed in the book promotes ownership of learning an fosters curiosity.
In ELA we use it to discuss global themes and relate to the characters in the literature we read. Quick writes also help them discover where their comprehension is wavering when they actually try to explain what they read.

5/29/2011 05:22:58

At different times during my teaching career, I have used journals in class to check for understanding on a wide variety of topics we discuss and learn about during the course of the year. In most cases, we have done a warm-up question and the beginning of class each day. I have always made sure that we attempt to do journal writing at some point in the year.

When it comes to larger pieces of writing, I like to focus on the proper way to actually write a paper and what people look for in them. With the kids this year it has been slower but they have grasped the concept of stating what their papers are about and how to develop material into a cohesive paragraph or story.

Martha T
5/30/2011 21:58:09

martha T
5/30/2011 22:12:56

The art of using journaling has been quite a challenge for me these past 4 years that I have been in ELA from Math. I used to think it was effective bellwork, yes admitting my ignorance, it was a way to take attendance and settle the kids down.

I now use it as an extension of our reading, writing , and grammar lessons occasionally reverting back to plain inquisitive prompts.

Every genre novel has an accompanying Journal. I have a two sided sheet in front that has relevant questions or thought provoking entries and I merely put the number on teh board, "Do #3, or #15" is a common question..They then know to respond to that inquiry.

I will sometimes make up my own questions pertaining to the previously days readings.

In grammar, I will have them use the journal as a practice for writing specific participial phrases, or other related subject matter.

I also use spiral notebooks to encourage the students to jot down questions, vocabulary they do not understand, character traits and other literary questions. They can refer back to these during discussions, use them as study notes for tests and enhance their reading experience.

The most important thing I have learned is WRITING IN ONE WAY SHAPE OR FORM EVERY DAY IN THE CLASSROOM!!!! A comfort zone is created and the emphasis is on expression not mechanics...if they feel comfort in writing down their feelings, inquiries, and ideas, or even complaints, the formal writing process transition will be less painful and more meaningful.

Amber Baaso
5/31/2011 00:33:00

I currently do not use a daily journal in class. I do use quick writes when I start new topics. I like to use these because it requires a student to think about a science topic or question and provide their background knowledge before we have lessons and discussion. At this time, they are also encouraged to write questions. The quick writes give me a chance to see where students may have misconceptions.
I like the idea of using a daily journal, especially with the observations, questioning, and synthesis that lend themselves so nicely to science. I do find, as Heinz said, we need to give our students the ability to reason and think for themselves and a daily journal may be a place to that. As others said, I would only allow a short amount of time and not grade for spelling and grammar. Possibly students would feel more comfortable to share their ideas knowing the focus was content and not mechanics.

Jennifer De-Smet
5/31/2011 00:39:27

My students write in the classroom nearly every day. Journals are a daily routine. Students respond informally (spelling and grammar don't count) to a question/prompt posed to them. This allows students to become more comfortable with writing as an expectation without the worry of being "downgraded" due to errors. It also allows them to reflect and create personal responses intead of "filling the cookie cutter." Another type of writing used frequently in my classroom is "Freewrites." Again, this is an informal piece of writing. The genre units ELA uses also incorporate lots of chances for informal writing.

Bill Trachsel
6/1/2011 00:10:06

I agree with Martha's comment about writing in some way every day. Journaling is a way to assess prior knowledge, review important concepts, ask questions, and speculate about any topic of study. Like Jen said journals need to be informal so the students have opportunities to write without constraint. I have used journal in both language arts and science classes. In science it was a quick assessment of understanding. In language arts it was a way to respond to reading or writing on a given topic. In my computer class, we have a Blackboard site that has group discussion boards, blogs and other tools for group communication. I use these tools from time to time. So far with discussion boards in class, the results are a bit mixed. Some students try to write intelligent responses to the prompts, while others try to treat it as a way to chat with their friends. I do see these tools as a great way to encourage more writing in computer class with a little refining on my part.

6/1/2011 12:53:20

I have not ventured into blogging with students just yet, but I am interested in doing so and I think they too would be motivated by the technology use. I do however use journaling and quick writes in the classroom on a regular basis. Providing students with time to do so allow them the chance to quickly and sometimes, informally, express their personal connections and summarize their inferences regarding text read on that particular day. With more formal pieces of writing, I teach the writing process and hold students accountable for assessing their own work on a rubric. Making time to conference with the students, one-on-one, is an important part of teaching writing. Together, the students and I can communicate their thought process throughout the assignment and reflect on components, which they feel came easy or difficult to their individual brainstorming/drafting.

Jennifer Wickersham
6/1/2011 23:44:38

I use a lot of different activities in my classroom that incorporate the writing to learn concept. In my mind, this is a lot like metacognition… think about how you think. Reasoning is a big part of science. Being able to explain your reasoning behind your hypothesis or inference is crucial to scientific inquiry. Examples of writing to learn activities that I have used are:

Exit Cards – students leave me with a one to two sentence answer about something that they have learned in a particular lesson.

Three Column Notes – the first column explains student prior knowledge, in the second column students provides evidence from text that they have read, the third column is where students reflect on how their learning has changed after finding the evidence.

Free Write Journals– I have used this in Language Arts as well as Science. No mechanics, just free writing to tell me their understanding of a concept or thoughts on a topic. It supports the idea of making personal connections with the content.

Student generated quizzes – Students learn by writing as if they are the teacher. The best way to learn is to teach!

Kevin Wickersham
6/1/2011 23:44:44

I think writing in class is an excellent way for students to express and make sense of their learning. I utilize many different activities within the classroom to afford students this opportunity. Through the use of KWL charts, student begin the process by writing down prior knowledge on the subject or concept being taught. By connecting prior knowledge to the topic, it helps bridge the gap from the known to the unknown. Other activities that I utilize in class is journaling. In SQ students will journal everthing they read in a small summary which will further cement comprehension. I try and provide authentic opportunities as well so students are better able to relate and have an increased interest.

Diane McLaughlin
6/2/2011 00:43:01

In my classroom I incorporate many types of writing into the daily plans. They range from daily recall of the previous days learning (QOD) to predicting, note taking skills, explaining your learning,and from the basic quick writes to more formal writing. However I, like Jackie have not yet ventured into blogging, but would like to.

Karen Harrington
6/2/2011 09:55:01

Like Jaclyn, I think that I would like to explore world of blogging with my students as another form of writing. Right now I tend to be more conventional in my approach to teaching writing. I think that modeling is also a very important way to help students get better at formal writing. Like Martha I like to incorporate a journal entry each week for the genre unit I am covering. I try to not only relevant to the book, but also to their lives and interests.

Daina Blackstone
6/20/2011 06:16:44

In my art classes, students have an open ended drawing assignment as bell work each day in class. An example would be: “Draw something you would like to do over the weekend.” This is challenging for a lot of students. They have to think of what they would like to do and match that up with something that they could draw. I think these skills are a lot like the skills that students use when they write.
I sometimes have students write down the steps that they took in order to complete a project or there opinions about what they did well or could have done better.
I can see that these activities are important and a lot of new options are presented in Mod. 1. I especially like the WAC website. Although I wish there were some more activities geared towards middle school children.
Next year, I will try out some new writing activities on Wednesdays for “Writing Wednesdays” instead of drawing bell work.

Daina Blackstone
6/20/2011 06:22:10

Not sure how we would use blogging in the classroom. Where would the students post their blogs? I thought blogging was blocked by our network security.?


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